Christ the King
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
John 18:33-37 Sermon
November 26, 2006
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
426 "All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name"
434 "Beautiful Saviour, King Of Creation"
160 "Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven"
431 "Crown Him With Many Crowns"
AN UNEXPECTED TYPE OF KING
TEXT (vs. 37): “Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered: ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.’”
Back in the early 1970’s, a country and western song appeared on the charts. The song was written by a Jewish man by the name of Shel Silverstein. The refrain to the song goes like this: “She's the queen of the Silver Dollar, and she rules this smoky kingdom, and her sceptre is a wine glass and a bar-stool is her throne; and the jesters, they flock around her, and they fight to win her favors, and see which one will take the queen of the Silver Dollar home.”
Of course that’s not the whole song. Other parts of the song contain the lines: “And her chariot is a cross-town bus that stops right down the block….Her royal gown is a satin dress, that's stained and slightly torn, and her sparkling jewels are rhinestones, and her shoes are scuffed and worn…” And that’s where I will stop; I think you get the picture.
Now I’m not a huge fan of country and western music; but I used to work with a guy who listened to it all the time. And during the 1970’s, the radio station he listened to played that song, “The Queen of the Silver Dollar” quite frequently.
It’s not a very pleasant song at all. Every time I heard it, I thought about how pathetic this woman must be. Here she is, every night getting on a bus and going to this dive of a bar called the Silver Dollar.
She’s most likely an alcoholic living in a dingy apartment somewhere with several children whom she probably leaves at home alone so she can go to the bar. She’s dressed in a torn satin dress with scuffed shoes. She’s showing the signs of middle age, looking rather thin and gaunt, a mouth full of rotting teeth, wearing too much make-up, and a poorly dyed head of hair.
She goes and parks her backside on a barstool. She is constantly drinking from her glass and chain-smoking Marlboro Lights, and spending welfare dollars to do it. The rowdy drunks are all trying to hit on her. And when it’s time for last call, she winds up going home with some guy who’s too drunk to care what she’s like, and of course she’s too drunk to care what he’s like. And the next night, it’s the same story all over again.
I wish stories like this one weren’t true, but they are—and sadly, they’re all too frequent. I would say that virtually every dive of a bar has at least one, if not more “Queens of the Silver Dollar” who regularly frequent their establishment.
The song gives this woman the title of “Queen.” What kind of a queen is this woman? It goes against everything we consider a queen to be.
When we hear the word “Queen,” I believe we automatically think of the royal family in Great Britain. Queen Elizabeth has been on the royal throne in England for the past 50 years or so. She, along with the royal family receives millions of dollars each year and they pay no tax on it. Queen Elizabeth lives in the lap of luxury in Buckingham Palace. And when we also consider all of the regalia connected with any of the major events in the lives of the royal family, we have a pretty good picture in our minds of what we expect royalty to be.
When Shel Silverstein wrote his song, he intended it to be a type of mockery of this middle-aged barfly. This was definitely a person that nobody would equate with royalty; in fact, she was exactly the opposite. She had no respect and no morals. The only thing that really mattered in her life was to sit on a bar stool and try to hook up with some guy. What an empty existence! This is certainly something that no real queen would do.
I’ve used this little scenario to illustrate another scene, which is recorded for us in our gospel lesson for today. Jesus is before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate wants to get the answer to the charge against Jesus that he was claiming to be a king.
If we look at what was happening leading up to this point, we find the Jewish Sanhedrin, or the ruling counsel taking offense at Jesus and his ministry. Jesus made the claim to be true God, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, and of course this infuriated the Sanhedrin.
They were indeed looking for a Messiah who would be king, but they were looking for something different. They wanted someone who would re-establish the kingdom of Israel, and put things back into Jewish control. They were expecting a king who would establish a theocracy like it was so many years ago. They wanted a king that would give them a type of earthly deliverance and victory.
Jesus was obviously not that type of Messiah or king. His deliverance and reign would be spiritual, and not something akin to fighting and winning earthly wars. And for him to claim that he was true God, well this just didn’t fit in with their preconceived notions.
This was the main objection of the Jews; however for the Roman government to put him on trial and sentence him, there would have to be a charge against Jesus that would be a crime against them. So the Jews introduced the charge that Jesus claimed to be a king. And for the Romans, claiming to be a king was usurping the authority of the Roman government and ultimately Caesar himself.
Pilate of course knew that Jesus was no threat to the government. The crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head was done in mockery of his claim to be king. The purple robe placed on him was most likely an old royal blue king’s robe that was faded and worn out, another form of mockery.
Jesus did not fit any description of what they thought a king should be. He had no army at his disposal, only a handful of disciples who were common men—certainly not the epitome of a well-ordered fighting machine. And he was being led off to be crucified—no king would ever have permitted that to happen. So in their mind, Jesus being a king was about as ridiculous as that middle aged woman on a barstool being a queen. It just didn’t compute with them.
In verse 36 of our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus says: “…My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.”
I don’t know how much clearer Jesus could have been. He definitely claimed to be a king, but not in the earthly sense. Caesar had the power to reign as far as the government was concerned, but he had no standing in God’s scheme of things. The Roman government could torture Jesus and execute him, but that wouldn’t change his ranking as the promised Messiah, the king of the Jews.
Jesus was unlike any other king on this earth. Most kings would stay behind and send his people to fight his battles for him. But Jesus did just the opposite. He went to the front line himself, and fought the battle against sin, death, and the devil that no human being could have ever fought and won. As a king, Jesus laid down his life for his people. He carried the sins of humanity upon his shoulders, and took them all the way to the cross. He carried the sins of Pilate, and Caesar, and the Sanhedrin, and Queen Elizabeth, and even your sins and my sins. He paid the price for those sins as well, which was the shedding of his innocent and precious blood.
And so we become a member of Christ’s kingdom through faith. Through faith we accept him as our personal Saviour from sin. Through faith, Jesus righteousness becomes our righteousness. Therefore Jesus is to have the rightful place in our lives as our Lord and our King.
Have you ever thought about what you are doing when you pray the Lord’s prayer, and say those words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?” I don’t care whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, a capitalist or a socialist. When we pray those words, we give testimony that we have entered a very special kingdom. We have pledged allegiance to a ruler, and we have submitted to the reign of Christ the King. We belong to him, and we are his people. We can be assured that he cares for us, looks after us, forgives us, renews us, and generally loves us in such a way that we can never fully comprehend it.
This past week, I was perusing through some Bible study material. I’d like to share a couple thoughts with you that were brought up in that study.
The first one is a group study question which reads, “List all the evidence you can that demonstrates that Jesus Christ is in charge of our church.” Now at first glance, that might seem like a “no-brainer.” Of course Jesus Christ is in charge of our church, isn’t he? We have all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed—just look at our confession of faith and our constitution. We preach and teach God’s inspired and inerrant Word, and we administer the Sacraments as Jesus has directed us to. We confess our sins, we receive absolution, and we hear law and gospel preached from the pulpit. Plus we work to bring the gospel message to others. Yes we believe that Jesus is our Saviour and that he has forgiven our sins. Yes we believe that through faith in him we will see heaven one day.
Yes we know how much Jesus loves each and every one of us; but do we have this same passion for others as he has for us? How does this example of divine love manifest itself in our midst? How important is our church to us—do we see it as something Christ bought with his own blood, and for her life he died? Is our church as important to us as it is to Christ?
Secondly, from that same Bible study comes this statement: “The real test of Christianity isn’t how you lead when you’re in charge, it’s how you follow when you’re not.” I think that bears repeating again: “The real test of Christianity isn’t how you lead when you’re in charge, it’s how you follow when you’re not.”
That statement should hit home with all of us; I know it does with me. God tells us in I Peter 5, 5-7: “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
I don’t think any of us really like the idea of being told that we have to humble ourselves and submit ourselves. But that’s what God tells us to do in our relationship with him. We like to think that we are strong and independent people. In this age of self-made people, the concepts of humility and submission frequently don’t fit in with the way we think.
But God loves us and promises to bless us when we submit ourselves to him. He will take care of us, even those things which cause us anxiety and worry. He promises to lift us up according to his good and gracious will. Good things happen when Christ is our king, and the Lord of our life.
In the beginning, I talked about that country and western song, “The Queen of the Silver Dollar.” I think about that rotten-toothed alcoholic woman perched on that barstool, and what kind of a queen she really was. Her self-image and self-esteem would have been so low that it was probably buried under the basement floor. She had most likely resigned herself to the type of existence she had, with no real hope of the future.
Can you imagine how different this “queen” would have been if Jesus were her king? Jesus knows what it’s like to be called a king with words of mockery. Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer with the dregs of society. This “Queen of the Silver Dollar” woman would find understanding, love, and acceptance in the arms of Jesus, her Saviour and king.
Today is Christ the King Sunday, where we acknowledge one very real fact, and that is that Christ is indeed the king, whether we want him to be or not. May the Holy Spirit always lead us to submit ourselves and humble ourselves before him, and ever proclaim him as our Saviour and king. And may we be comforted in knowing that the kingdom of heaven is the best kingdom there is.