Christ the King (Pentecost Last)
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 27:27-31 Sermon
November 20, 2005
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
163 "O Worship The King, All Glorious Above"
413 "Come Let Us Join Our Cheerful Songs"
434 "Beautiful Saviour, King Of Creation"
431 "Crown Him With Many Crowns"
MOCKERS TO THE END
TEXT (vs. 8-29): “They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ they said.”
Back in the mid to late 1980’s, there was a lot of talk and news coverage about Satanism. Even though we don’t hear a lot about it today, I know it still exists and it is quite popular. It just isn’t the big news item it once was.
Back in the late ‘80’s, I lived in Australia. One Sunday evening, I was watching the Australian version of 60 minutes, which is almost identical to the American version. Anyway, on that particular program, they were doing an investigative report on Satanism in the town of Warwick, a place about the size of Milford in the state of Queensland.
So here was this rather quiet and peaceful town, and Satanism was creating problems there. The reason that this had gotten the attention of the 60 minutes crew, was because of the death of a young teenage boy who was killed in some sort of a Satanic sacrifice ritual. 60 minutes did a rather good job of interviewing the people in Warwick, especially those who were connected with the practice of Satanism.
I don’t know how much any of you know about Satanism, and I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject; but from what I’ve read in books and seen on television, the practice of worshipping Satan begins with a complete and total mockery of everything that’s Christian, and stands for Christianity.
For example, one of the symbols used quite regularly is an upside-down cross. They also mock the Lord’s Supper by mixing cat’s blood, urine, and wine together in a chalice and drinking it. They say the Lord’s Prayer backwards. The animal they use the most for their religious symbolism is a goat, to show that they are the goats, separated from the sheep. Everything is a mockery of that which is Christian. Their worship is a direct perversion of Christianity.
When we examine our text for today, the one thing that jumps right out of it is the great deal of mockery that was going on surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus. As if the whole ordeal of Christ’s crucifixion wasn’t enough, he had to be mocked and made fun of at the same time. This was definitely an instance of adding insult to injury.
Christianity and mockery seem somehow to always go hand-in-hand. Noah was mocked and jeered when he built the ark. The apostle Paul was mocked for his faith. Jesus alerted his disciples, as he ultimately alerts us, that we would be mocked. And right up until the time that Jesus bowed his head and gave up the ghost on the cross, he was mocked—not only by the crowd of people around him, but by the one thief crucified with him. There will always be those who mock and jeer, right up until the end.
Our text for today, which is the Gospel lesson, almost seems out of place. It should be one for Holy Week or Good Friday, when we contemplate and remember Jesus’ death on the cross. However, this Sunday, which is the Last Sunday after Pentecost, is also noted as “Christ the King” Sunday. And this text quite clearly calls Jesus Christ the King of the Jews. The way it is used in this text was a mockery by the soldiers and those who sought to falsely accuse Jesus. Even though they never intended it to be that way, the sign they nailed up above the cross to mock Jesus was a very true statement. That sign written in mockery is symbolized by Christians today as the very familiar “INRI” that we see on the top of a lot of crosses.
As we dig a little deeper into this text, we find a great deal of symbolism all the way through it. The crucifixion is of course the central picture here. But we also find those that mocked him, the death of an unbelieving mocker, and the death and passing into paradise of a believer. And of course, we see our King.
As we think about mockery, I believe that we’re no stranger to it. We’ve all been mocked, jeered, and teased at one point in time or another. It’s no fun, is it? And when it comes to our Christian faith, well it always seems that somewhere along the line we’ll run into the sarcastic mocker that makes fun of our Christianity and our faith, and it probably happens more frequently than we’d like.
But Jesus reminds us in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, 11: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” This of course covers all those times that we have been mocked because of our faith.
Face it, being a Christian in the society of today isn’t the most popular thing. It almost seems to be the odd thing to encounter another Christian on the street—and there might be some truth to that, since only about 35% of the people in the United States attends church regularly.
Christianity isn’t popular; especially when it goes against what society believes is right. And if we take a stand on what the God pleasing thing is, especially when the majority wants to go the other way, then we can almost expect ridicule from the crowd.
But as Christians, we’re not out to win any popularity contests. God didn’t ask me or anybody else what to put into the Bible when he gave it by divine inspiration. God did not submit his Word to a popular vote amongst the people, or make any of his statutes repealable. No, what we have is what God has given to us as our only rule and norm for our faith and life.
The theme of the day today is “Christ the King.” But do we really want to make Christ our King? How seriously do we want to submit ourselves to him? In order for us to make Christ our King, then we need to be completely willing to submit ourselves to him. We must be willing to love him as he first loved us. And Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” If we want to make Christ our King, then we also must be willing to be his disciples. And Jesus says in John 8, 31: “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed.”
Far too often, we don’t want to REALLY make Christ our King. We would rather do our own thing. Even though we may not pervert and mock Christianity to the blatant extent that the Satanic worshippers do it, every time we go the way of the world and ignore what God wants, we pervert and mock Christianity in our own way. And when we do this, then we join those around the cross who stood there, jeering and mocking Jesus, while he hung there, suffering and redeeming the souls of those who stood there jeering and mocking. And if we keep it up, then of course we join the thief on the cross that jeered and mocked Jesus, right up until the end, despite the rebuking of the other thief.
Now Scripture doesn’t really give us too much detail about either of the thieves that were crucified with Jesus, but we read with remarkable clarity in Luke’s Gospel the confession made by the second thief. In Luke 23, 40-43 we read: “…Don’t you fear God, he said, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The first thief looked at that sign hanging above Jesus, and saw it in the same light that the soldiers and the crowd saw it. He joined them in their mockery and jeering. However the second thief saw the sign for what it really meant. I suppose that the way Jesus accepted his suffering and how he refused the drug, and hung there uncomplaining, might have given him a clue that Jesus was the true Son of God. But however the Holy Spirit worked the faith in this thief’s heart, he does make a tremendous confession. That thief confessed Christ as his Saviour. With his dying breath, he saw Christ as the King of the Jews, the promised Messiah.
What kind of a life this second thief had, I have no idea. He was a thief, and so we can assume that his life wasn’t that of the ideal Christian. He might have been one of those who was in a crowd that ridiculed Jesus before. But it’s likely that he had heard of Jesus and the things that Jesus was doing. He might have heard about Jesus’ claims and miracles, and passed them off as either exaggerations or blasphemy. But now, at that moment of truth, he sees Jesus as his Saviour. Somehow, he knows that Jesus was hanging there suffering for his sins. And he knows that because of Jesus, God has forgiven him. And he asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. And through that faith, Jesus promises him that he would be in paradise. What a thing to look forward to!
How do we make Christ King? Technically, we don’t make him king. Christ is already the King. What we need to do is recognize that fact, and make sure that Christ is King in our lives. Because Christ is King, we first need to recognize that by ourselves, we are nothing. We’re like that thief on the cross. That thief couldn’t get down off the cross. That thief couldn’t save himself. And we too cannot save ourselves. As we go along in our lives, it may seem as if we don’t really need God. But in that last hour, if all we have to look forward to is just a six foot hole in the ground, then we come to the grave realization that we can’t climb out of it by ourselves.
When we recognize Christ as our King, then we have to recognize him primarily as our Saviour. We place ourselves totally in the grace of God, and the knowledge that our sins have been forgiven for Jesus’ sake.
With Christ as our King, we will then not only submit ourselves totally to God’s grace, but also to God’s will. And because of our sinful selves, we will be continually tempted to go the ways of the world. We will always have the tendency to be mockers to the end. But Christ is our King. We can go to that throne of grace time after time for forgiveness when we go astray. No matter how many times we’ve been one of the jeerers and mockers, because of the grace of God, we’ll always receive forgiveness and acceptance. We can fully claim that promise Jesus made to the second thief, “Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
Christ is our King, and we are not only his subjects, but also his disciples. When we recognize this, as people redeemed and forgiven by Christ, we should then gladly and cheerfully subject ourselves to him. We subject ourselves to him when we seek to do his will in our lives. The jeerer and mocker looks to the Word of God and asks the question, “Did God really say or mean that?” However, the believer joyfully declares, “Thus saith the Lord,” and puts the Word into practice. When we recognize Christ as our King, he is to be our Saviour and our guide, and not jeered or mocked.
At the beginning of this sermon, we looked at how Satanism jeers and mocks Christianity by totally perverting Christian symbols and practices. These are people who have chosen to make Satan king, and to be one of the goats rather than one of the sheep. But by making the choice to follow Satan, and by perverting Christianity and blaspheming Christ in the way that they do, we can also make one very interesting observation. If Christ wasn’t real, and if Christ wasn’t the complete antithesis to Satan, then they wouldn’t be attacking and perverting Christianity as the method of worshipping Satan.
The sign above Christ’s head on the cross which read, “Jesus Christ King of the Jews” wasn’t put there to confess Christ as King, but as a form of mockery. But that wasn’t how it turned out, for Christ proved himself to be the King; and that mockery by the soldiers turned out to be a very powerful confession. The words of Christ ring true: “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.”
We recognize Christ as our King. As a group of believers, we are subject to him. We proclaim him as the King through our faith, through our doctrine and practice, and through our lives as individuals. By thus acknowledging Christ as our Saviour and King, when we say, “Jesus, remember me when I come into your kingdom,” we can be assured of Jesus’ answer: “Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.”