Christ the King, Proper B
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
John 18:33-37 Sermon
November 22, 2009
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
136 "Come Thou Almighty King"
434 "Beautiful Saviour, King Of Creation"
451 "Teach Me, My God And King"
160 "Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven"
A POSITION OF POWER AND MIGHT
TEXT (vs. 37): "Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.'"
There's an old story that tells of a man walking down the beach one day. He picks up a large sea shell; and when he tips the sand out of it, a huge genie materializes right in front of him. The man stood there in shock.
Then the genie spoke. "For freeing me from my prison in this shell, I shall grant you just one wish, and I will make it come true. And no, you can't wish for any more wishes either."
The man thought long and hard. Just one wish. He'd better make it a good one. And then, since it was early in the week, he got a bright idea. He told the genie, "I want to have this coming Sunday's newspaper today!"
He had no sooner spoken the words when, sure enough, he was holding the coming Sunday newspaper in his hands. He thought about how he was going to clean up financially. He had the winning Powerball numbers right there in front of him, and the jackpot was very high. He had all of the various sports scores, so he could bet every game and be a winner. He could make a lot of money in the stock market.
His mind literally reeled with the possibilities of how he could acquire all of this wealth. And as he paged through the newspaper and read the various things, he happened to glance at the obituaries. To his absolute horror, his name was at the top of the list. And suddenly, all of his dreams of wealth and fortune were dashed to pieces. All of that would be meaningless if he wasn't around to enjoy it.
We all know the story of Alladin's magic lamp, with the genie who granted him three wishes. If you're like most people, you've probably been guilty of daydreaming what you'd do if you had a magic genie that would grant you three wishes. I know that has crossed my mind too.
With that kind of power, you would virtually have the entire world at your disposal. You would be the one in charge, and everything would be completely subject to your own personal desires and tastes. What would the world be like if this were to happen to you? Or if you want to think of things in more sobering terms, what would happen if this magic lamp would have fallen into the hands of someone like Hitler, or Stalin, or Saddam Hussein, or Osama Bin Laden? What kind of world would we have then? I think that we all shudder to think of a sinister individual with the ability to have unlimited power.
Today however we are going to be talking about a special someone who indeed has unlimited power. In theological terms, we call this "omnipotence." This special someone also has two other abilities that begin with the prefix "omni." Those other two abilities are "omnipresence" which describes the ability to be present everywhere all the time, and "omniscience" which describes the ability to know all things.
Thankfully, sinister individuals like Hitler, or Hussein, or any other political dictators never had these abilities. We could never even begin to imagine how horrible things would be if they had.
Only one person fills this bill, and that is Jesus Christ himself. Jesus is the one who holds the position of ultimate authority. Jesus is the one in charge. Jesus is the one that can make things happen. Jesus is the one who knows.
In the Epistle to the Philippians, chapter 2 verses 9-11 we read some very descriptive words: "Therefore God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
The theme of this Sunday, the last Sunday in the Church Year is known as "Christ the King" Sunday. As we conclude the focus of this past year and prepare to enter the season of Advent in preparation for Christmas, it is important for us to focus our attention upon this one area of Christ's three-fold office, the other two being "prophet" and "priest."
Our Gospel lesson for today almost seems out-of-place. This is one of the texts we use during Lent, in the days leading up to Easter. Jesus is before Pontius Pilate, and Pilate is asking him about the title, "King of the Jews." To use this title without proper authorization would be usurping the sitting ruler of his office. And to specify "Jews" also involved the church. So Jesus was having to deal with attacks from two different directions.
And all we need to do is remember what happened following the birth of Jesus. When Herod heard that this "king" had been born, he ordered the slaughter of all those young children. The kingship of Jesus certainly drew the attention of many people.
Even though Jesus' title of "king" brought about feelings of hostility amongst the people, this title is very common for us as Christians today. Just think of all the hymns and spiritual songs and carols we have in our hymnal. In Advent, we'll be singing, "Lift up your heads ye mighty gates, behold the King of glory waits." At Christmas, we'll sing "Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new-born King." In Epiphany, we hear about the three wise men who "Went to find the King of nations." In Lent we sing "O Christ our King, Creator Lord." On Palm Sunday we sing "Thou art the King of Israel, thou David's royal Son." On Easter we sing "At the Lamb's high feast we sing, praise to our victorious King." At Ascension we sing "See the conqueror mounts in triumph, see the King in royal state." At Pentecost we sing "Hast thou not bid me, love thee, God and King." On Trinity Sunday we sing "Come thou Almighty King."
And then we have a whole bunch of other favorite hymns too. "O worship the King, all glorious above," or "Bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all," or "Beautiful Saviour, King of Creation," or "The King of love my Shepherd is," or "Crown him with many crowns," and the list continues on.
Everywhere we are faced with the kingship of Jesus, almost at every turn. We can't get through any given season of the Church Year without being reminded of this fact. Jesus Christ is indeed the King, and we can't forget that.
But here is where one very huge problem comes in. We sing all those hymns and spiritual songs and carols that declare Christ as our King all to easily. We all voice our agreement without hesitation. The problem is that it is all too easy to give Jesus the crown but to take the power for ourselves. The followers of the crucified King, the Lord Jesus Christ overcame Rome by martyrdom. But after Constantine's conversion, the victorious Christians sought revenge against their former enemies. The history of the church is spattered with blood because power requires violence to maintain itself. Just look at the Crusades, or the Thirty Years War. To put it another way, people like to use the words of Jesus, but would rather behave like Herod and Pilate. Christianity has certainly suffered some "black eyes" because people want to be the ones in power, and make the decisions according to their own logic. And when human reasoning replaces divine guidance, the result can only be disastrous.
As we look at what's going on in the United States today, we know that Christianity is under attack. For example, the ACLU operates under the premise of trying to make things equal; but in reality, they are attempting to eradicate Christianity and promote non-Christian religions instead. The devil is certainly hard at work.
But Christians aren't handling things very well either. So many times you'll hear Christians arguing that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. And this is a wrong statement. The United States was founded upon what we would consider Christian principles--now that's correct. But we also have to remember that not all of our founding fathers were actually Christians, even though their conduct was in harmony with Christian virtue.
If the United States were a Christian nation, then we would have a state church established that would be Christian. But as it is, we have freedom of religion. We are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. So correctly understood, we are a republic, operating as a democracy. We are in fact a secular nation founded on Christian principles. And that's what our founding fathers intended.
So when people insist on taking power themselves, and do so behind the mask of Christianity, bad things happen. Abortion doctors are murdered, and abortion clinics are bombed. Heathens like Fred Phelps and his family cult at Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas spew more hatred at people than the whole Sanhedrin did at Christ's crucifixion. And in general, people have the idea that they can somehow Christianize a nation of people by force. And do you know what? It isn't going to work. Every time it was tried throughout history, it met with dismal failure.
But human nature takes over. And when it does, we want that power for ourselves. Just like a magic genie, we want things to happen at our behest. We want things to go our way. We want to be the person in charge, and have everybody else march to our drummer. Regardless of whether it's on a large scale or a small scale, we want to be the ones in control. We might acclaim Christ to be King, but only if we can wear that crown for ourselves.
But here's where the reality of Christ's kingship comes in. He's a king unlike any other king that the world has ever known. Awhile back, I read several verses from Philippians chapter two. Jesus is described as having all power and authority, and that at his name "every knee should bow." But there are several verses that precede it. Let's look at verses 5-8 of Philippians chapter 2: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very natureGod, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!"
Now that's the kind of king Christ was. Even though he had all power and authority, he didn't come and beat us over the head with it. Instead, he bowed his head, went to the cross, and gave his life on our behalf.
When we look at Christ our King, we see Christ as our Saviour. And when we see ourselves as people who seek power and control, when we selfishly want things to go our way, when we want to be masters of our own destiny and everybody else's too, then we need to see Christ for what he did. We need to see him as our Saviour-King.
That's why we gladly yield ourselves to him. We come to him in faith, knowing that the sacrifice he made was for us and for our good. And we can also have faith that he will continue to be pro-active in our lives, and that he'll always be looking out for our best interest.
In our weekly Bible Study, we just completed our study of the book of Revelation. When we began, and several times during our study, I mentioned that the book of Revelation exists to serve two very important purposes. First, it's a warning to the unbeliever. Second, it's a promise of hope to the believer.
Throughout the book, Jesus is exalted as the supreme King. Regardless of the trouble and turmoil that we experience here on earth, Jesus has the upper hand. He's the one that is ultimately in control. Therefore, we don't have to worry because we can trust our Saviour-King. Jesus is the king who will deliver us in the end, and bring us safely home.
Therefore we can, without any hesitation at all, trust the words of Revelation chapter 17 verse 14: "They will make war against the Lamb [that is, Jesus], but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings-and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."
That describes you and me, his faithful followers, the subjects of the King whose kingdom is in heaven where we will dwell with him--a kingdom that will endure to all eternity.